Gators Take Aim at No. 20

The Florida basketball program is one of only five in the nation that has posted 20 or more wins for each of the last ten seasons. The Gators will try to stretch that streak to 11 Tuesday night when they visit the Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena. Florida takes a 19-4 record into the contest and leads the SEC Eastern Division with a 6-2 mark.

Kentucky has had an up and down season and is 16-7, 5-3 in the league. However they bring a three-game losing streak into the game with the Gators and may have a sense of urgency similar to what Tennessee felt heading into its game with Florida ten days ago.

Kentucky is pretty much a two-man team, but those are pretty good men. Jodie Meeks (25.1) is the top scorer in the SEC while Patrick Patterson (18.3/9.2) is arguably the best big man in the league. After that you have a solid No. 3 guy in forward Perry Stevenson (7.9/6.7) and very little else. Those three guys combine for two-thirds of the Wildcats' 77.5 points a game. In SEC games it's even more dramatic Meeks (26.4), Patterson (16.1) and Stevenson (9.9) combining for 73 percent of the Kentucky points.

The Gators are coming into this one after lighting up the O'Dome scoreboard Tuesday night in a 97-93 win over South Carolina. Six Gators scored in double figures in that game including Erving Walker who posted a season high 18. The Gators will be without forward Allan Chaney who is bothered by a stress reaction in his heel and that further shortens a Florida bench that has gotten shorter and shorter throughout the season.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan talked about the match up with Kentucky and what the Gators have to do to handle Patterson in the low post.

"Well I don't know that anyone has handled him down low," Donovan said. "He's one of the better frontcourt players in our league, he's a tremendous post-up guy and he's very physical. I don't think you can play him with one person. There are times you can trap him and try to get the ball out of the post, but there are other times the way they run their offense it's very difficult to trap. This is going to be a game where we'll have to do a good job before he catches the ball, but I would say he's probably as good as anyone in our league at catching the ball in an area where he can just go and score."

Donovan also acknowledged that slowing down Meeks is even harder, because the 6-4 junior guard can score from anywhere on the floor. He also points out Meeks is a great weapon for Kentucky whenever they get the ball up and down the court.

"In transition baskets and coming out of the press it's going to be important because he really does a terrific job. One is the team finds him in broken floor situations. When the floor is opened up after a missed shot or coming out of the press they find him and he gets threes off. And I also think they do a good of what I call their high/low motion and screening action. They put him on a wing and they have Patterson posting up on one block and they have him (Meeks) coming off a double screen. So you got a great low post player coming off and a really good shooter coming off at the same time."

Donovan was asked if Kentucky's recent losing streak could leave them feeling "backed into a corner" and make things tougher on his team. He said teams that are struggling sometimes can shoot their way out of it.

"When you go into a game sometimes you see shooting percentages being down and you play the percentages. Sometimes those percentages can change when you're dealing with a team that understands; okay we really got to get this one. Hopefully our guys feel exactly the same way their guys feel. We've got to understand that we're going to get Kentucky's best effort; that's the way you try to approach it."

The Gators have dominated the Kentucky rivalry in recent years, winning seven in a row before dropping a 75-70 decision late last season. Before that it was a completely different situation with Kentucky overwhelming the Gators over the years 84-24.

Discuss on the premium forum

Fightin Gators Top Stories